Visiting Artist Stacey Robinson Collaborates in Multiple Media
Stacey Robinson was a featured artist at the UT School of Art during September and October 2023. He participated in multiple exhibitions in collaboration with the Ewing Gallery and the Downtown Gallery. He was a visiting artist for the school and community, sharing his skills as DJ with 90.3 The Rock, leading a gallery meditation along with Joycesonia Lawson, presenting an artist lecture, leading a community/world building workshop in collaboration with The Bottom, a Knoxville community center, and joining in a reception for the October 2023 First Friday celebration.
Robinson was born in Albany, New York, and is an associate professor of graphic design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The influence of science fiction, Black liberation politics, and comic books fuel his multimedia practice.
Visitors to Robinson’s Ewing Gallery exhibition, titled Audacious Black Freedom Dreams, enjoyed being surrounded by seven seven-foot banners that were created using digital collage. These images mimic the kind of concepts portrayed in the audio samplings of hip-hop musical productions. This installation was created by BLACKMAU, a collaborative duo of Kamau “DJ KamauMau” Grantham, psychologist, and Stacey “Black Star” Robinson.
Their BLACKMAU moniker and work express imaginings that merge ideas of liberated Black futures, ideas of agency, sovereignty dystopia, and escape that are communicated well through digital collage aesthetics, house music, and animation. Visitors were encouraged to read, meditate, or respond to BLACKMAU’s installation by creating their own works of art at stations in the gallery.
At the Downtown Gallery, Robinson offered a solo exhibition titled, Black Utopias: Black Distractions + Disruptions in Time Space. This project looks at systems of oppression and resistance through black and white logo designs and illustrations that use the emptiness of white gallery walls as the backdrop for extracting black resistance commentary, that mash up references from pop culture, music, and Black history.
While in Knoxville, Robinson not only encouraged the art students at the UT School of Art but met with students outside the visual arts disciplines, engaged with over 200 high school students, and collaborated with community members, embracing discourse and inspiring new creators.
“As a curator within an academic setting, I look to encourage new viewers, makers, and supporters of the arts, to shape and form the next generation of art world activists in whatever role they may take,” said Julie Lohnes, director/curator of the School of Art Galleries and Collections. “We seek to do this by selecting engaging and democratic exhibition and programming experiences by collaborating with artists that make transdisciplinary connections through the consideration of historical, political, and cultural topics, with a focus on underrepresented and underserved communities. Stacey Robinson’s collaborative project, BLACKMAU, and his individual artwork, imagine a new world through an Afrofuturist lens with references to comic books, science fiction, graphic design, and hip-hop sampling, creating a future where Black communities have freedom and agency beyond contemporary and historical legacies of racism, power, and surveillance.”